Random Rants and A Possibly Good Thing

I don’t get this obsession with knowing every little detail of a terrible thing. For example, I do not wish to know the intimate details of the recent death of a loved one. I don’t want to know how badly he suffered or how awful it was. I know how awful it was: it’s why I keep crying. So please stop trying to tell me. This is not idle gossip. I did not wish to know every brutal detail of how my cousin died of melanoma a few years ago, but I was told – by many sources and even after asking them not to tell me. Now I have to live with this mental image of his final moments as he succumbed to respiratory failure.

So yeah, as you can tell I haven’t been having a great time of it. Everything is seriously fucked up in my kingdom and therefore I haven’t been up to blagging. I have mostly been trying to fix the unfixable – a process very much like voluntarily and repeatedly slamming one’s head into a wall (and in my case, while the house is being firebombed). As a result I’ve been in a right shite mood, and every little thing is setting me off.

The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

For example, I am so frelling sick of Hollywood making shitty movie versions of really good books. It irks the shiz out of me, but there’s not much for me to do about it but rant. Rant rant rant. I’m sorry but I like the way the story looks inside my head. I am not the kind of reader who hunts down all the interviews of their favorite authors trying to figure out what they were going for. I don’t believe that this is the point of literature. I believe it is like art – paintings, for example – where the artist composes the picture, applies the details and takes you to that other world. What that other world is like is now a construct of your mind. The meaning is yours to experience and discern.

The writer gave me all the information I needed to build their world, to live in it, experience it and feel it. If the information was good it will have a transforming effect; it will make an impact, resonate, and take hold. That’s why I read books. I do not read books so that directors can interpret them as they see fit and then build stunted visual interpretations of them that will forever taint them and compromise their integrity.

(I’m looking at you Joseph Gordon Levitt).

My dresser.

My dresser.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong

I’m also super ticked because a lot of really awesome events are happening in my area that I would love to go to, but I can’t because of my crippling panic disorder. Amanda Palmer and Neil Gaiman will be doing a musical/reading event with a bunch of other artists and musicians in honor of Ms. Palmer’s upcoming book release. The New Pornographers have been oot and aboot. Various book events and cons. Just so many things I would love to see. But I can’t because I’m a fracking mental case.

Sometimes I feel like perhaps I’m doing therapy wrong or it doesn’t work the way I think it’s supposed to. Or perhaps it doesn’t really work at all. Anyway, everyone’s answer to my issues outside of the medical/therapeutic fields is generally ‘take something and get over it’.

I find it amusing how people who have never had issues like mine or who have never been on any sort of medication have the attitude of ‘just take a pill’ and shrug, as if that’s all it takes to make the shittiest parts of your life just go away. But they have no idea how the medication works, how your brain works and what goes into both the disorder and the medication. (Let me say right now that I think it’s disturbing how little the average person knows about how their own body works.)

Popping a pill is just not that simple. And don’t you think that with this whole nightmare that I go through on a regular basis, that I’d have done that already if that’s all it took? Trust me; I’m not a glutton for punishment.

 banana books

In interesting and non-shitty news, this week I got an intriguing email. I had submitted a portfolio to a charity that was looking for artists to make and donate work for an auction in December. This is sort of a big deal, both the charity and the auction. Plus it’s a cause that is really important to me.

Anyway, the other night I get an email from the committee or whoever that decides these things, and they loved my portfolio and want my stuff. Not only that, but, along with my portfolio I sent a proposal highlighting three options for what I could create for them, and they want all three. So they want at least (and they stressed the ‘least’ bit) five of each thing, all in less than a month.

I went into this thing thinking that it wasn’t just a long shot, but that I’d never get picked at all. But here I am, more than a tad shocked and excited. So I’ma gonna be crazy busy, what with NaNoWriMo, an art competition with a local art shop (for a much needed supply prize package), and now this. So it’s very likely that this will be my last blaggins for a while. Which is fine by you, I’m quite sure.

So with that I take my leave of you. Enjoy yet another musical road map, provided by the Psychic MP3 Player.

Portugal. The man – Everything You See (All the Kids Say Hallelujah)
St. Vincent – The Neighbors
St. Vincent – Black Rainbow
Lykke Li – I’m Good, I’m Gone
The New Pornographers – Failsafe
The New Pornographers – Go Places
The National – Conversation 16
Grizzly Bear – Ready, Able
Lou Reed – Andy’s Chest
MGMT – The Youth
Guided by Voices – The Future is in Eggs
Portishead – The Rip
Zoe Keating – Forest
Fleet Foxes – The Cascades
The Kinks – Who’ll Be the Next in Line
Say Hi (To Your Mom) – Toil and Trouble

P.S. I’m trying out a new theme. If it’s disgustingly pretentious, please let me know. I don’t mean to be, I swear.

Writing Panic, Nerdfighteria, and New Knitting Jargon

Even though, logically, this would be the time when I post the next installment of the long-ass piece in which I blagged about the assets of 2013, I pull another fast one and digress yet again down a long and ridiculous tangent that has nothing to do with anything but is bothering me quite a bit. (Like that commercial in which a guy brings a flower to a date of some import, while a delectable guitar melody plays over it. Has no one noticed that the melody is in fact “Never Going Back Again” – a Fleetwood Mac song about bitterly giving up on love after a string of disastrous affairs? Seriously? What is friggin WRONG with people?)

And in that vein I refer back to my last blag post in which I mention how I’ve been knitting up a storm. And while twelve movies (make that thirteen – hello, the Breakfast Club) does fill up the time, it obviously doesn’t fill up all the time. So what else have I been watching? Well, first I went and watched all of the nerd videos I had missed this fall/winter while I was busy getting nerdier. Then, after I did that, I decided to go back in time and watch all of the early Brotherhood 2.0 videos. In order. I did this mainly because I was curious, and mainly because I was bored and knitting, and mainly because I am a fan. I mean, I watch the current videos and whatnot, but I am not an original fan. All of my DFTBA and Nerdfighting expertise came later, when I was lured in through other, related videos by Mental Floss and the like. I am not afraid to admit that; I was still at university (the first go round) and dealing with some heavy personal shit (like always) and so stuff like this got by me. This is true of other things of that time period – like Heroes, which I love and didn’t watch until years after the fact thanks to G4 and Netflix.

Now that I’ve admitted that, please don’t dump on me over it, fellow Nerdfighters. I am suffering enough knowing that too much time has gone past to bother posting replies In My Pants or otherwise when the Green Brothers need to be schooled. Maybe when I complete my time travel device, I can tell Hank that the Harry Potter series is popular in a way that hasn’t been seen since L. Frank Baum’s Oz books. Yes, it’s true: the Land of Oz was an epic commercial success that no one had seen the likes of before or until Rowling dropped her recycled saga on us. I could also fill the Brothers in on the equally epic Ninjas versus Pirates wars that went on at my college campus. Wars involving found vintage pornography and kites.

Anyway, so here I am knitting feverishly and watching John and Hank when I am struck by two unsettling things. The first being: as I watch John I can’t get the fact that this is the same guy who wrote The Fault In Our Stars out of my head. Seriously? This is the guy? Not to knock John – no, no, no. Not at all. It’s just that he is very much like my friend Dan. Too much, really (it’s doppelganger level scary), and I can’t imagine Dan writing that book. I can’t imagine John writing that book. Although when I do try to imagine who could have written that book I come up blank, so I guess the whole thing is moot.

What is getting to me, actually, is the second unsettling thing, which is that these videos are a good peek into the life of a modern day writer. They take place in 2007, in which we find John Green between two novels: the much acclaimed, already published An Abundance of Katherines, and the in-progress, still being crafted Paper Towns. This means when we don’t see John talking at home, or giving us sneak peaks of a day in a life of writing, we see John traveling… A lot: Promoting his books, going to functions, speaking at organizations and libraries and schools and even attending awards functions. He is always running around and this bothers me because my panic disorder has reached epic levels in certain departments, and traveling, especially alone is currently out of the question for me. And if I am ever to be published I will be expected to do this traveling, running around and talking and flying in planes, and whatnot. It’s bad enough I’ll have to deal with doing it all as a fatty (which is a really big concern, actually and probably will prevent my ever being published by a proper house), but doing it in a constant state of panic… I can’t even…

So concerned about this am I, I have been searching other writer’s blogs and videos and talks and interviews and articles and it’s all the same, everywhere I look. Neil Gaiman practically lives on the road. Even the Composers of Naughtiness have to do all of this. There are specific Naughtiness Composer conventions. I don’t stand a chance. My only hope will be to write something as epic as To Kill A Mockingbird, let my book work for me as I hide in my room and refuse to talk to the media.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I have been medicated for my panic disorder in the past, but the drugs messed me the frak up and stunted my creativity in a weird way. In fact, if you read what I’ve written before, after, and during my periods of medication, you would swear that whoever was writing during was not the same person who was writing before and after. And they sucked even more than that other guy. The same goes for the rest of my art and music too – everything is forced and without, I guess, soul.

This February though, things may change in the freaking-the-fuck-out-in-the-supermarket department. Thanks to the ACA my health care is expanding and I will be able to resume my search for a mental health professional who has some experience dealing with panic disorder. Go me, and thanks Obama. (And please, I don’t need any guff, so don’t go writing nasty anti-Obama shiz in my comments section. I already get a lot of that – and plenty more – from my sadly misguided and misinformed right-wing cousins. Yes, I’ve seen the open letter from the lady in Alabama who is worried her kids won’t have health care. And I’ve successfully smote every single person who has attacked me using it as evidence. So let it go.)

Despite getting all wound up and anxious that my crazy may be thwarting my hopes of finding my book in a store one day, I keep obsessively watching Brotherhood 2.0, Year 1. I find it horribly amusing, and in a lot of ways I can see how these guys might just be In Cahoots. For all of you out there in Nerdfighteria, being In Cahoots is very much like being a Secret Sibling. We would have to meet, exchange glances and nod knowingly for me to confirm this, but so far as I can tell, all the evidence seems to be there. There is no question however, that I am a Nerdfighter. I mean, come on. Not only am I a most epic reader, I am specifically a most epic reader of Science Fiction. On top of that, I am a font of useless information. Seriously. I once inadvertently usurped a museum curator giving a tour, and ended up finishing it myself. (This has resulted in my being the go-to guide in every museum situation since.) I collect weird shit like ancient cameras, rocks, bits of discarded nature and dead bugs which I then incorporate in both my science and my art. I am an abecedarian, and I have lists of kick ass words – everywhere. This last year I didn’t make a gingerbread house I made a gingerbread… T.A.R.D.I.S.. And if that isn’t enough, I am currently enrolled in a major university, where I am studying theoretical physics. I ultimately want to use my nerdiness to make the world a better place – if not just a better informed one.

At this point I think I could actually give Nerdfighter classes. This I feel would be good, and beneficial, as the Nerdfighting community should aim to grow and spread across the earth, using it’s might against World Suck. So sign me up.

In a complete non sequiteur, I shall now present to you as promised, the epic hat stack:

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

The Epic January 2014 Hat Stack

That’s fourteen bald heads that shall be soft and warm in the near future, kids.

I wish to take this final moment to announce a new development in the world of knitting jargon. The knitting acronym/abbreviation Sl2,K1,PSSO – sometimes written as S2KP – shall now be referred to as Flooping The Pig. So remember, next time a pattern requires you to slip two stitches (as if to knit) then knit one and pass the two slipped stitches over that knit stitch, you are Flooping the Pig. Don’t worry, SSK – or slip slip knit – is still called Slipping the Nip. That will never change.

And with that, I am off. Please enjoy this parting gift – a playlist to get over this whiny rant to:
Fleetwood Mac – Never Going Back Again
The Goat Rodeo Sessions featuring Aoife O’Donovan – Here and Heaven
Newton Faulkner – Sitar-y Thing – Interlude
Chris Thile – Riddles in the Dark
Claude Debussy – Suite Bergamasque: Menuette
The Jane Austen Argument – Song for a Siren
CocoRosie – Gallows
Agnes Obel – Riverside
Alexandre Desplat – Mr. Fox in the Fields Medley
Bruno Coulais – Mouse Circus
Iaian Ballamy – Rabbit Band
Architecture in Helskini – Nothing’s Wrong

Books, Movies and Le Chapeau Mal

The Guide To Reading

I realize that when it comes to this blogging thing I suck.  I mean, seriously: this is the 32nd post in this mess I started in 2012. And although that may sound like a lot when you say it out loud (thirtee-too), in the world of blog that’s nothing. Folks around here type volumes daily over years. Decades. What the hello?  Wordpress is constantly sending me friendly little reminders about how to get my stats up, the most important thing in that equation being my actually writing stuff enough to get people to notice me and to follow me.

This may come as a surprise, but, I don’t necessarily want nor need people to follow me. I mean, if you do, I really appreciate it. That’s awesome, thank you. But I’m not looking to up my stats. I was just really hoping that feeding this blog would encourage me to write more, because, while I love to write, I often hit these brick walls of creativity where I could and should finish something but instead get desperately sidetracked. I have a lot of outlets and a lot of interests and a complete spaz for a brain. Therefore, it is too easy for me to get sidetracked.

So what have I been doing with myself, instead of finishing blag posts, or my book or whatnot? Well, so far this year, I’ve watched twelve movies and read only five books. I know this because my local library has a counter that keeps track for you, and at the end of the year, those who have finished over fifty books (and in a separate contest, fifty films) are put in a raffle to win a prize. I have never won, even though I’m fairly certain no one else in my town reads as much as I do. I read 151 books in 2013, beating my personal goal of 150 books by one.  150 was my goal for 2012, but I only made it to 126, which is interesting when you consider I wasn’t in school in 2012. It’s strange how I’m apparently reading more even though I have significantly less time.

Keeping track of what you read in a year is a good idea. Not controlling in the way my nifty little acquisition tends to be, but just an account. If I compare the 2011 list with the 2013 list, there are interesting trends. I notice that I tend to read in patterns – genres change during certain times of the year, and I have a list of go-back-to reads that are surprising, especially to me. Who knew I’d read Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson at least once a year? Not me.

Here is a sample of some of the hats I knit for the youth.

These are some of the hats I’ve knit for the youth.

You may have noted that it’s only 18 days into the New Year and I’ve already seen twelve movies. What the frak have I been doing that I haven’t been able to post my giant blag about 2013 in review, but I’ve been able to see The Social Network for the nth time? Well my semester of scary math, cosmology and neuroscience (what the frell?) is almost upon me. So I’ve decided that last years poor offerings in the knitting-hats-for-bald-kids department was appalling and shameful, and therefore I’ll give myself a fighting chance this year, and try to get in as much knitting as I can between now and next week, when the academic shiz starts to get out of hand.

Right now I has a sessee stack of about 12 woolen and 2 cotton caps that I’ve churned out since the 4th. (I’ll maybe post a picture here if I remember in the morning). Plus one that I made for myself that remains a cause for great ethical and philosophical debate between me and my brain. The debate goes something like this:
Me: I really love this hat pattern I have been knitting incessantly for days now. I should really knit myself one.
My Brain: Why don’t you? You need a hat, and we’ve got all that wool from your mom’s friend.
Me: Yes, but isn’t that wool earmarked for the bald kids?
My Brain: No. They got you the yarn, they didn’t intend for it to go to the charity, they wanted you to get some use out of it. You were the one who gave it to the knitting project.
Me: Yes but…
My Brain: No buts. Just do it. You need a hat, you like this pattern, you don’t have the money but you do have the wool. And the wool was yours to do with what you would. The only one who will be upset about it will be you.
Me: Okay. I’ll do it. But I’ll swim in guilt forever.
My Brain: Sounds like a plan.

So I knit myself the hat, and it’s faboo. It’s a lacy slouch cap, and it looks good with my hair up or down, and covers the baldish bits as well as my ears, and keeps the snow off and the heat in. However, I feel like a jerk half the time that I A: wasted perfectly good yarn on me, B: that I meant for all the yarn to go to my hats for brats project, and C: I wasted perfectly good knitting time on me and not the project. Even though everyone says I’m overreacting, I kept feeling like I was a Bad Person.  This resulted in BB telling me that I ‘must be a Bad Person, because that is a Bad Hat’. He then informed me that in France my hat would be referred to as ‘Le Bad Hat’ and I told him it would be called Le Chapeau Mal and sneered.

My own personal cyborg provided this, the official donations bank for my knitting endeavor.

My own personal cyborg provided this, the official donations bank for my knitting endeavor.

I’d ask my readers or nonreaders their opinion on the ethics involved here. But it’s kind of moot as I know that the second I get any moolah it’s all going in the yarn donation bank to cover the price of the yarn I used on my hat. And don’t worry, I’ll round up to the price of a full ball.

Now, after taking the long way around, we get to my point which is: I watched 12 movies so far this year mostly because I’ve been knitting in all my free time, and I cannot read and knit at the same time. I can, however, knit and watch all the movies I want at the same time. Couple that with four days of free HBO and a DVR, and I’m all set for knitting bliss.

The only exception to this knitting thing would be having gone to the cinema to see the new Hobbit film, much to my chagrin. Tolkien must be rolling in his grave over that mess.

Other things I have been doing are equally disturbing and boring and can best be explained in the following blaggage: The Year in Terrible Things and The Year in Musical Instruments.

Until then…

2013 and The Year In Books

So I wrote all this stuff the last week of December. Brace yourselves…

I have decided to commemorate 2013 with a scathing review of its assets. Yeah, I know that the year isn’t over yet. But it might as well be. I mean really, what else is going to happen between now and then? (Cue the alien invasion).

So let’s start with…

Book It

The Year in Books

I read too much. So much so that my Kindle exploded (see: the Year in Terrible Things). This is the second Kindle to have exploded on my watch in two years. I am currently borrowing a brain shattering Kindle Fire until I can swing a new e-ink number, so I can achieve my reading goal of 150 books. Yes I intended to read 150 books in 2013, and with only three more books to go, it appears I might just make it.

When I say I read 150 books, I am not talking board books or shitty romance novels. So far this year, I’ve read Faulkner, Woolf, Bronte, Stoker, Dr. Michio Kaku, Homer, David Levithan, Ray Bradbury, Toni Morrison, J.M. Coetzee, A.S. King, and so on. And on.

Some tomes of note include:

Angelfall and World After by Susan Ee
This story is messed up. And I loved it. These are the first two books in the post-apocalyptic YA horror series “Penryn and the End of Days”. Here, our protagonist is a teenage girl with an un-medicated schizophrenic mother and paraplegic little sister, trying to stay alive while angels wage war on mankind.

Of all the dystopian, apocalyptic series I’ve been privy to, this is the most sophisticated in character disillusionment of any of them. As far as Penryn is concerned, keeping her tattered, tortured family together is the only thing keeping her sane; the only thing that matters. Even when good things happen, she never once fools herself into thinking that the humans will survive, or that anything other than the end is nigh. She harbors no false hope, and exists in a state of reality. For a novel aimed at teenagers that’s sort of amazing.

There is a strange dynamic between the two leads, the archangel Raphael and Penryn, and while the storyline pushes towards a possible romantic climax, you can’t forget for a second that this series is horror. It’s not Caitlin R. Kiernan, but it’s very dark, and pretty graphic. Dismemberment graphic. Mutilated children graphic. And even the ‘romantic’ aspect of the plot is more affection than anything. Raffe sees Penryn as a pathetic human, a lower creature. Penryn sees Raffe as a monster, and the means to an end. So don’t worry. If you read this you won’t throw up. Or at least, not for the sugary, unrealistic, teenage romance reasons.

So check it out. And don’t let the angel thing turn you off. In this story, angels don’t know if god exists either, so it’s not religious schlock being shoved down your throat.

Still With Me by Thierry Cohen
I was sort of excited to read this book, it seemed like an interesting idea: A young man commits suicide on his 20th birthday after his best friend/lifelong love rejects him. And that, it would seem, would be the end of that, except he wakes up the next morning to find that it is now his 21st birthday. His life has moved on without him, a full year, and he has no idea what he did during that year or how he got to this new stage of his life. Every morning he wakes up and it’s another year and another birthday, and he is lost like someone suffering with DID. As the years (days) pass, he sees his soulless self gain everything in life he ever dreamed, only to selfishly and tragically lose it all. The story is part science fiction, part spiritual redemption. And I suspect it would have been pretty great too, had I been able to read it in its original French. Instead it reads almost emotionless – bland, flat. Seeing as this was a national bestseller in France and in other markets, and has been translated into fifteen languages, I think the problem is with this particular translation.

To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I had to read this one for a class I took over the summer. Everyone hated it. I loved it.

To the Lighthouse follows a family as it hosts friends and neighbors at their summer home on the sea. They’re 1920s-ish, upper middle class white folks, who have fancy dinners and keep some degree of society. But that’s not what turns people off about this book. It’s not simply a book of rich white people on vacation; it is a complex study of human relationships, and entropy. And it’s told in what is called stream-of-consciousness writing, which briefly became popular around this time with authors like Faulkner, but which Woolf (arguably) perfected.

Stream-of-consciousness writing follows the thought process of the writer or the character. Imagine you’re walking down the street and you’re thinking about how tired you are and how much work you have to do and what is going on with your best friend and how come they haven’t cal – oooh! A Squirrel! That’s stream-of-consciousness. Many people find this too confusing to read. But it’s how we, as humans think, how we take in information, and so if you read it, and give it a chance, it not only makes sense it makes the story more believable.

So this particular story looks at every character like threads in a tapestry. Their lives, their thoughts and feelings interweave, and over time they fade and fray, separate and come loose. We see exactly what happens when those threads are picked apart, when some are removed, how the tapestry unravels in some places, how it becomes stronger in others. And time  – like I said, entropy – is another character here. Time passes and you feel it.

I love this book. So read it. And after you read it, check out Virginia Woolf’s biography. She was pretty awesome.

A Gay and Melancholy Sound by Merle Miller
This book is just… downer doesn’t really cover it. The entire book is a man dictating his life story into a tape recorder, in preparation of his upcoming suicide. Yep. Rosy. So much so in fact, it became one of those situations where I only finished the book at all because I have this thing where I have to see it through. I finish every book, no matter how shitty it is. When I’m in, I’m all in.

The book is set and was written during the late 1950s/ early 1960s. So in that aspect it’s very interesting, very much of it’s time. And it’s beautifully written, don’t get me wrong. I just genuinely didn’t like this book, because I genuinely didn’t like the lead character. He is miserable and sad and blames everyone around him for the fact that he is an asshole living the life of an asshole. He doesn’t do anything to fix things or to take ownership for his situation in life – which by the way isn’t so bad. He’s a completely successful individual career-wise. And you know, maybe that’s what the writer was going for, and maybe that’s was Miller’s motive in writing the character. But as a reader it did nothing for me.

And trust me I do not look for sunshine and rainbows and happy endings. Not at all; that stuff is in no way realistic. It’s just if I wanted to read whiny self pity from over privileged apathetic people, I’d give a shit about Twitter.
In related book news, Gaiman released The Ocean at the End of the Lane this year, to much acclaim. Even though I have it, had pre-ordered it, even, I haven’t read it yet. BECAUSE IT’S TOO DAMN PRETTY AND I DON’T WANT TO WRECK IT. It’s autographed in green ink, for cripes sake. The second I open to the first page, the spine is going to crack I’m going to crease and then tear the first page and spill gravy on it. And I’m a vegetarian – I don’t even eat gravy. BUT THAT WILL HAPPEN.

Aside from the books I’ve read, I’ve also acquired some real doozies this year. My great aunt had been slowly liquidated her late husbands’ books to me ever since I found a deposit of them she was unaware of in a closet in her spare room. They are mostly in the ‘little snippets of knowledge vein’ or are novels very specific to his tour in Morocco in WW2. They have awesome titles like What Happened in History (I was flipping to the back page to see how it ends, when my aunt came over and said “Oooh, see how it ends!), and I Never Met an Arab Like Him. Yep. Never.

This same uncle, John, was also fond of marking his dictionaries, and as I grew up I’d find things stuck throughout marking the words he looked up. He liked to write the word he was trying to learn over and over again on snips of paper, or use dental floss to mark pages. Yesterday there was a grand ransacking of their apartment (see: the Year in Terrible Things), and I finally took the dictionaries home with me. I also found a smaller, pocket dictionary I’d never seen before. It too was full of snippets of paper. But when I read them they weren’t just words he was trying to read: there were things in his life he was trying to remember. Like how earlier that day the Boston Globe had a picture of him in a major article on Veterans who served in North Africa. He didn’t save the article, he just wrote about it. At least he listed enough information that I’m sure I can find it.

The Guide To Reading

I also found a gorgeous little volume at a flea market called The Guide To Reading for $2. And it literally is what the title implies: a list of what books to read, what passages, in what order, and even on what day of the week. It’s a rather presumptuous little thing, really.

The Guide to Reading Content

So that’s it for The Year in Books, but I’m not done with 2013 yet. Gird your loins for The Year in Music.

Typewriters and Canscer Scares

So I have somehow inherited (if this is the proper word for it) the typewriter of a beloved and popular uncle. By inherited I mean, I posted on Facebook how I wished I had a proper, old-school manual typewriter (as opposed to my much beloved electric Smith-Corona) and a cousin told me that he wanted to give me my uncles’ typewriter which was rescued from the rubbish when they cleaned out his house after he moved away from the old neighborhood.

I don’t know much about the typewriter, other than my uncle loved it. He was a letter writer apparently, and he took very good care of the instrument while it was of interest to him.

Sufficed to say, although the typewriter I had in mind was a turn of the century Remington, I am much obliged for this specimen. With every tap of the keys my Smith-Corona slams the hammer against the paper with enough force to pierce it – and indeed on occasion it has. It is an angry thing and quite appropriate for my artistic purposes. Am curious to see how I will fair with this new noise; it seems a might bit tamer than the bitter THWACK! of my old electric. Now all I need is ribbon and I should be all set. I am looking forward to penning another chapter or short story on it in the future.

Typewriters of Famous Writers

Once I have done something to facilitate the accessibility of mine hovel (to some degree of efficiency) I shall commence with the disparate and fictitious nonsense such is my literary career. Which are just fancy words for ‘once I get all my ducks in a row, I shall shoot them’.  Every time I manage to get some of the crazy out of my head and on paper all I get is a stomach ache for my reward. I have a few people I force to read my crap and ask for advice, but I don’t know. Not that I don’t trust them, it’s just maybe I need a wider sample? Or better yet – no sample at all?

In other news, probably more pressing, my surgical endeavors were successful. Thus far at least. Phil has been removed and is living somewhere off the grid. My foot has a badass scar, and as we all know, chicks and hotties dig scars, so perhaps this will all work out in my favour one of these days. I am healing nicely, the stitches, bandages and the boot (I had to tromp about in a boot of doom and keep my foot otherwise elevated) came off after three weeks.

The biopsy revealed no canscer – Phil was just a freeloading asshole. I had hoped at least for teeth and some hair, just for fun, but nope. The nerves in the area will be a bit raw for a while, and I have to keep an eye out for unusual colorations or swelling, but otherwise I was sent away from podiatry with a clean bill of health. So huzzah for me.

Like I have mentioned before, this is not my first cancer scare. This is like, my fourth in the last decade. So, although I should be more upset that this keeps happening, there is nothing more I can do. I eat crazy healthy, I even try to grow my own non GMO food. I try to exercise. It’s just how it is I guess.

In fact, the day after the stitches came out I had my annual intestinal probe. They found another giant adenoma, like they did during my first cancer scare. With my intestinal disorder I have a seriously elevated risk of colon and other cancers of the digestive tract. The first time was like Defcon Five around here, everyone in a panic, me keeping everyone together. Then I got a big speech from the gastro-doc informing me that although I don’t have cancer now, the polyps he removed were an early form of cancer. He told me I basically had stage zero cancer and that there wasn’t much that they could do other than be more vigilant. So my colonoscopies went from every three years to annually, with intermittent testing in between, and my cancer risk has gone from ‘elevated’ to one-in-three or one-in-two chances of getting ill.

So that’s going to be fun.

My biggest issue with getting sick is everyone else around me; these things freak everyone out more than me. So if it seemed that I was nonchalant about Phil I wasn’t trying to be coy; I was just trying to downplay it and see how things turned out before reacting. Or overreacting, rather. My family is populated with amazing, giving people. But it’s also populated with worriers – as in ‘worry-myself-sick’ worriers – and people who make other people’s misfortunes their own personal tragedies. Plus, since the dawn of e-mail and Facebook the rumour mill is alive and well and surprisingly even more ill-informed than ever.

So my colon is clean – yet angry, and my foot is sore but healing.

I didn’t get to go to Blick after all, because I am TOO BROKE, but I did manage a copy of The Ice Palace by Tarjei Vesaas for one of my classes. It was really good and worth it. I was surprised and not surprised at the same time that my library didn’t carry it, and that in fact none of the libraries in this part of my STATE had it. So maybe when I am through with it I may donate it. Maybe.

I am a selfish bitch.

Philectomies and Hazardous Waste

Yesterday morning I had my surgery. A Philectomy.  It was… an experience.

The surgery itself went really well.  It took less time than they thought it would. Phil was surprised so he didn’t resist much when it was time for him to be escorted off the premises. I was home a few hours later.

But.

A few things went down that I was not so happy with.

It seems that everywhere I go these days I get paired with the new guy, or the intern, or the trainee. This day I got new surgical nurse Jarod, who was all right I suppose. It’s just, you don’t want the guy who supposedly knows what he’s doing also to be the guy you saw the automated security system reject over and over again until someone inside came out to bail him while you were waiting for someone to call you to your (possible) doom. You don’t want the guy who is taking your vitals and entering your information into the computer not knowing how, or not knowing where the equipment is or how any of it works.

Then there is the waiting and the awesome, esteem-building johnny they make you wear. And it’s freezing.

When the anesthesia team comes in, I was not really in the mood for anything else to go wrong. I should mention that at this point I hadn’t slept at all the night before, I hadn’t been permitted to eat or drink anything after midnight, and so I was completely off my game with exhaustion. I was so thirsty my lips were cracked and bleeding. The anesthesiologists’ assistant came in, and she was nice, told me what she was going to be doing: setting-up IV’s and then monitoring me while I was out, and later helping me wake up. Then the anesthesiologist blasts in, introduces himself, and then leaves. He appears frazzled in a demented mad-scientist sort of way. He has little circular band-aids all over his face where he apparently had shaving difficulties. As you can imagine my confidence was positively BOOMING right about then.

Up until this point I wasn’t so much nervous as tired. I just wanted to get on with it. But then the anesthesiologist’s assistant starts trying to start an I.V. She ruins the only good vein I have left, because she tried to use a too-large needle on my very dehydrated veins. I was so dehydrated that it took at least fifteen minutes for her to start the I.V. in a terribly painful spot on my wrist.

While all of this is going down, the co-surgeon comes by with the surgical nurse for the meet and greet. This is in the midst of the a.a. shredding all the veins in my arms. I was trying to be cool about it, but it was painful and I have had an irrational fear of I.V.’s since I was a child (and apparently that shit does not go away, even after years of blood infusions and transfusions, and hospital stays for Crohn’s problems and dehydration). So I’m trying to talk but am having difficulty making eye contact.

Then the crazed anesthesiologist bursts back into the crowd of now seven people surrounding my bed, just as his assistant gets the I.V. going and injects the first sedative, to tell me – and surgeon No.2 – that he just talked to my doctor and they’ve decided that instead of putting me under they are going to give me a local, a nerve block and put me in ‘twilight sleep’. Then he turns to me and says “all right?” No. Not alright. I try to ask if this means what I think it means – that I will basically be awake while they cut open my foot and separate egg-shaped Phil from the nerves (and vessels) that control movement and feeling in my toes. But now I can’t talk and faces are getting hard to differentiate, and they are doing something to my hair, and the walls start melting and people continue talking to me all at once as they pull the bed away.

And it’s even colder and they shift me onto the surgical table and put a screen across my chest so I can’t see the gore, all the while assuring me that I’ll be asleep and won’t really need it. And then it begins.

The nerve block is basically like an epidural but for my leg, not my spine. They give me more drugs that make me feel like I’m underwater; like the air pressure was just raised from fifteen cubic lbs to one hundred. They start prepping my foot and I can still feel EVERYTHING. The yellow gunk they pour over my foot, the taping, everything. My pulse must have jumped because the a.a. starts rubbing my head and telling me everything is okay. Then I guess they wait for the stuff to really kick in on the leg-numbing front, then begin.

So I am not sure what they thought was supposed to happen or why this would be a better idea than knocking me out. Maybe my insurance changed its’ mind about how it wanted this to go down, whatever. All I know is, I fucking felt everything. It didn’t hurt, but I can feel moving, tugging and cold. I was aware. I heard the surgeons saying “Damn” and muttering to each other. People kept telling me to close my eyes and asking each other why I was still awake. They kept adjusting the medication which just made the drowning feeling worse and made everyone’s words melt together.

What is it with sedatives making reality melt? Or better yet, why is reality so meltable?

At one point something went awesomely wrong with the nerve block and I felt EVERYTHING. And I gasped but it came out garbled and mangled. My blood pressure went crazy and made it all the harder to breathe. There was all this rushing around and this unbelievably awful sound in my ears, and then it was over. It probably lasted a minute or two but for me it was forever.

When it was over they wrapped me up and started bringing me down from all the druggins. The a.a. kept stroking my head and whispering that it would be okay and that I wouldn’t remember any of this later. Yep.

In post op they put me in an empty ward alone with a nurse. I was across from the room where they have refrigerators full of juice and stuff for the patients and staff. So I got to watch interns sneaking beverages which was pretty funny. I was seriously cold and couldn’t get warm. And it turned out not to be in my head, either – they were having trouble bringing my body temperature and pulse rate up. I don’t know what my temperature was, but my pulse monitor would go up to 53 and then drift back down to 39 and all the alarms would sound. That’s why they kept me separated with my own nurse.

Finally they let my family in and then the surgeon came in all happy and self-congratulatory. I still couldn’t properly talk or I’d have strung together more expletives than he’s probably ever heard. I’d say Belg*um so many times I’d be imprisoned for verbal assault. He declares that he’s changed his mind about the crutches, since I’m supposed to be off my feet for three weeks at least anyway. He gave me a big boot to walk in instead and reminded me to always keep it elevated.

They asked me if I was ready to go and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like to pee first and I said yes. They asked me if I’d like a wheel chair and I said not to go pee and they said fine. Then they left me in front of the bathroom and I was on my own. As in, they didn’t come back. I had to walk back to the car without crutches or assistance, drugged, with a numbed, recently dissected leg.

Assholes.

Then, for the piece-de-resistance: when we got home my pharmacy called to inform me that my health insurance rejected my prescribed pain killer and substituted something significantly less effective instead. So right now I am on waaay more than the prescribed dose of something which is having no effect on the pain in my foot (or my head at that matter), but is making it rather hard to read or watch television.  This is bad as I have to read two Melvilles by tomorrow night for one class, and Frankenstein by Tuesday for another. (I would have started the Shelley earlier, but I didn’t think it would be a good idea to read it before having surgery.)

I have good reason to believe the insurance company was also responsible for the sudden change in anesthesia and the lack of crutches. I’ll find out more and deal with that later.

I’ve been typing this thing for over three hours, mostly with my eyes closed, so I hope you can follow it.
I hate being on drugs. When it’s too much and I can’t function outside of my head it’s upsetting. When it’s too much and my head is fuzzy and/or my thought are garbled I panic. Right now I’m in the upsetting category. I can’t express myself properly verbally, but if I take my time I can type. It makes me frustrated and I sound like I am snapping at people when I’m not. It also makes it easy for people to misinterpret me, ignore me or do things I can’t stop. So my mind churns on, getting into a nice lather and I start thinking things I can’t properly express. It’s hazardous, and a waste of my energy, time and fabulous grey matter.

Right now am seething because as soon as we came home, my parents, happy with the surgeon’s post-surgical spiel set me up in bed and then jumped on the telephone. They called all the people they had already told, but called a bunch more who weren’t informed. And it was both of them on two phones. I couldn’t stop them. All I had asked was that they not tell anyone they didn’t have to until after the biopsy results. That’s it.
Calling people with ‘good news’ is too early: while I don’t think it’s at all cancerous, we don’t know for sure. I don’t think anyone should have to worry while they wait either. That’s why I’ve only told the people who NEEDED to know, who were close to me and would you know, catch on to the fact that I had been crippled for a month.  So now my grandparents know and they are pissed at me that we didn’t inform them. They have SO much bad shit going on over there right now, and if there was an Olympic prize for worrying, my grandmother would be the all time gold medal champion. They’d have to come up with a platinum medal to adequately give her her props. Worrying about my biopsy results is the LAST THING she needs.

Now am angry with my folks for doing this. It’s not just that it’s pre-emptive, and it’s not just that it’s gossipy. It’s because they never listen to me, and they always tell my business, especially my secrets. It’s disrespectful and hurtful, and when I point that out they disagree and continue to do so.
So it’s understandable that I don’t like to tell them anything. Especially since, as giant overgrown children, if you tell either of them that you are upset with them, or that they are doing something to upset you, they immediately become defensive and get angry at you. It’s ridiculous and nothing gets sorted and everyone walks away mad.

Such a healthy environment, don’t you think?

The hospital just called and told me to take all of this other stuff with the prescription painkillers, and now I am SLEEPY.

I’ll leave you this picture of my new guitar. For no reason.

Wilson in all her glory.

Wilson in all her glory.

My Brain Revolts and Phil Gets Evicted

Lately I’ve been extraordinarily busy. Things have gotten complicated, and stressful.

(But really, what’s new?)

This past spring, on top of my Stanford physics classes, I took some free classes from UPenn. Then I signed up for three classes over the summer – lit classes from Brown, and one from the University of London via Coursera called “The Camera Never Lies”.  I thought that was a reasonable amount of learnin’ to aspire to, until the fateful moment when everything started overlapping – at one point I had one physics class (which was delayed at start so it was late wrapping up), a Greek mythology course, two Brown lit courses and a design class all at once. Each lit class requires me to read a book a week, write a paper and possibly take an exam, the myth class had similar reading requirements plus exams and the occasional paper, the design course had prototypes that needed blueprinting and building (and documenting on the interwebs IE: building a website), and the physics class had, well, physics: math, math, math, exams, problem sets, and of course, math.  Plus hours of lectures and notes for each class.

As you can imagine, it was around this time that my brain tried to escape. It made a valiant effort, but I managed to get it to behave – mostly by promising that it was going to get better. And it was going to get better, and I knew from the get-go that overlapping may happen in some circumstances and would happen in others, so it wasn’t too much of a shock. It just was a bit more than I was expecting. (‘Twas better-in-theory I suppose.)

I took my brain to see the Star Trek movie (because Cumber—-ch was in it, and fukkin Sylar so it was inevitable), after which it agreed to stay in my head and not fracture into different people. Again.

The Phil Face gets you into the Nightosphere.

The Phil Face gets you into the Nightosphere.

While all of this was going on, something strange had been developing. Completely unbeknownst to me, and without any sort of permission or anything, a mystery mass began squatting in my foot. This is the random medical issue I mentioned here.  I have so much weird health bullshiz that I pretty much didn’t think anything of it. I just named it Phil and drew the Phil Face on it. But it started getting uncomfortable and so I had it expertly appraised.

Turns out Phil is a vascular mass, and he is painful because he is growing up through a junction of nerves and important vessels in my foot. Everyone who has looked at it – from my GP to my dermatologist – has said the same thing: that it’s in a really bad spot. You’d think a mass growing in the bottom of a foot would be worse, but nope, I found worse and it’s right… thar <points to Phil>.

Phil

They’re not sure what Phil is exactly, and he is going to be removed and then biopsied at 7:30 tomorrow morning in one of the top hospitals in the world. How that happened, I dunno, but it did. So in the middle of my school mayhem, all of this craziness is going down, tests and scans, trips into Boston. I went from waiting to ‘see what Phil would do’, to minor medical procedures, to okay we are going to remove it right… NOW. In a week I had a surgical appointment, a miracle GP approval appointment, phone interviews, pre-op interviews, and all my ducks in a row…

I haven’t really been nervous about this new development or anything. I think I’ve been awfully good about a lot of things that happen to me, and that are happening to me. But two incidents have made me anxious. The first was an unrelated dermatological appointment, in which my doctor – curious about Phil – checked him out. He went a tad grim and wrote a note to my podiatrist requesting biopsy results. The second thing that got me nervous was the pre-op appointment with said podiatrist. We talked about the pathology, and how important it was. He basically told me that it could go either way, and we have to be really careful because of my family history. This made me nervous because my family history is this:

In the mid 2000’s my cousin had a mass removed from his leg. They thought it was a cyst but found that it was melanoma. He beat it, or so they thought, for on his five year checkup they found it had returned, and spread to his bones. They spent the next year and a half trying everything they could but it was of no use and he died in 2011.

So right now, I have a mass in my foot that my doctors thought was a cyst. But it’s not. I’m going to have it removed and it may or may not be cancerous. If it is, I am not afraid so much of the cancer.( I think cancer should be more afraid of me.) However, there are factors in my life that are very unreliable, and I am finding myself aware of how alone I will be in this. That is not to say that I don’t have friends and family who will help me. It has to do with the family I live with and how they will deal with this sort of thing, should it come up. I feel as though in a lot of ways they won’t be reliable, and I don’t know if I can be sick and take care of them the way I do now. It’s complicated, and I don’t really want to get into it that much, but that is where I’m at in my head.

Also. Despite my request that this is kept under wraps until we know what is going on, my mother went and told some people anyway (one of her awesome little quirks). One of those people is my aunt, my cousin’s mother. So you can imagine how upset she is over this, and how upset I am that she had to find out like this. I don’t need her going through this again, you know? She shouldn’t have to worry. I don’t want people freaking out, and I don’t want people reacting until we know there is something to react to. Things tend to get blown way out of proportion in my family, and I just need all my ducks in a row before I have to deal with everybody else.

Surgery is tomorrow – or rather – Phil get’s officially evicted tomorrow. Bastard squatting was bad enough, but stealing utilities? Naw, bitch gotta go.

In lieu of flowers, send LPs and ukuleles. Ocarinas are also acceptable.

And on that note, I’m off.

Oh and by the way, after I wrote that last post I finished Theogony and aced an exam on it. Consider that bitch smote.